Old Prineville Hotel memorialized
The old Hotel Prineville cornerstone takes up a prominent place on the corner- By Frances Juris
Crook County Historian
The discovery in 1972 of a large, gray block of stone bearing the words "Hotel Prineville" may have created mild interest among most passers by, but among old timers and historians the sight of the stone created real excitement, and brought many memories and reminiscences.
The stone was found by James Smith during excavation work being done in connection with the construction of the Ochoco Inn Motel and restaurant, on E. 3rd Street between Main St. and Belknap St.
The "Hotel Prineville" stone was originally placed high above the door of central Oregon's finest new hostelry in 1912.
Except for the gray stone bearing the hotel's name, the building was constructed of a pink rock which came from a local quarry near Barnes Butte and a quarry west of Bend.
In about 1911, the old wooden Prineville Hotel, which had occupied the spot was moved east on the same block, to the corner of E. 3rd and Belknap Streets, to make way for the most modern, up-to-date hotel in all of Central Oregon. The old wooden building was used as an annex to the new Hotel Prineville.
Mrs. C.E. McDowell, owner of the new hotel, was so sure that the stone construction would make it completely fireproof that she carried no insurance.
However, just ten years later, in 1922, the biggest fire ever to hit downtown Prineville completely destroyed four blocks, half of the business section, including the uninsured $80,000 Hotel Prineville and its annex.
In 1923, the $200,000 Ochoco Inn was built in the same block where the Hotel Prineville had stood.
The Spanish style architecture of the Ochoco Inn made it stand out among more conventional buildings and the Ochoco Inn took its place beside Bend's Pilot Butte Inn as a famed Central Oregon stopping place.
How the "Hotel Prineville" stone came to be buried at a spot almost directly below where it had been placed above the door of the hotel in 1912 may always remain a mystery.
It is possible that it fell to the ground and was buried at that place when the rubble from the 1922 fire was cleared away. But it seems more logical to think that the stone was used deliberately as a cornerstone for the new Ochoco Inn.
In August of 1966, all Prineville people, and many from far places, were saddened when the Ochoco Inn was destroyed by fire.
It only seems fitting that the old "Hotel Prineville" stone be returned to the spot almost directly below where it originally stood.
The community thanks James Smith, the owner and the construction contractor who discovered the `lost' stone in 1972, and the Staffords, the new owners of Morgan's restaurant, for bringing a bit of Prineville's early history back to life.